What would I like to change within the higher education?

If I had the chance and the authority to change one thing in the higher education, I would consider changing the current grading system. I believe that the current grading system in the higher education puts too much emphasis on the concept of students’ achievement. The students are evaluated based on their performances on exams and projects. This evaluation method makes students grade-oriented, who only care about their grades rather than in-depth understanding and improvement in the subject. If I had the power, I would change this to a multi-dimensional evaluation system (MDES). In MDES, I would ask the instructors to base their assessments on three evaluation sources. The first source would be an individual evaluation that each student gives him/herself. I think the best person who can judge about your improvement is you. You can assess yourself to see how much you improve in a particular subject during the semester. The second evaluation source would be peer reviews that you get from your group members. The peer evaluation would bring a new concept of assessment in the higher education. This particularly results in constant observation, suggestion, and improvement that is being given to a student by his/her group members during the semester. Exams and projects can be the third source of evaluation. The third evaluation method, which is currently the common method, can assure the instructor that the desired understanding of the subject is achieved by the students. By implementing MDES, I believe that not only a certain level of achievement is granted, but also  students can observe and enhance their performance more efficiently.

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I came across this resourceful video on YouTube about ethics in publishing in journals. A set of questions are asked and professors from different universities address the questions. Hope you find it helpful.

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Code of Ethics in the Construction Industry

Before starting a career in an industry, I believe, it is critical for everyone to get familiar with the code of ethics of that industry. In my case, I intend to start my career in the construction industry and become a construction manager. So, I looked for the code of ethics adopted by the Construction Management Association of America (CMAA).

CMAA has adopted the following Code of Professional Ethics of the Construction Manager (CODE).

“As a professional engaged in the business of providing construction and program management services, and as a member of CMAA, I agree to conduct myself and my business in accordance with the following:

  1. Client Service. I will serve my clients with honesty, integrity, candor, and objectivity. I will provide my services with competence, using reasonable care, skill and diligence consistent with the interests of my client and the applicable standard of care.
  2. Representation of Qualifications and Availability. I will only accept assignments for which I am qualified by my education, training, professional experience and technical competence, and I will assign staff to projects in accordance with their qualifications and commensurate with the services to be provided, and I will only make representations concerning my qualifications and availability which are truthful and accurate.
  3. Standards of Practice. I will furnish my services in a manner consistent with the established and accepted standards of the profession and with the laws and regulations which govern its practice.
  4. Fair Competition. I will represent my project experience accurately to my prospective clients and offer services and staff that I am capable of delivering. I will develop my professional reputation on the basis of my direct experience and service provided, and I will only engage in fair competition for assignments.
  5. Conflicts of Interest. I will endeavor to avoid conflicts of interest; and will disclose conflicts which in my opinion may impair my objectivity or integrity.
  6. Fair Compensation. I will negotiate fairly and openly with my clients in establishing a basis for compensation, and I will charge fees and expenses that are reasonable and commensurate with the services to be provided and the responsibilities and risks to be assumed.
  7. Release of Information. I will only make statements that are truthful, and I will keep information and records confidential when appropriate and protect the proprietary interests of my clients and professional colleagues.
  8. Public Welfare. I will not discriminate in the performance of my Services on the basis of race, religion, national origin, age, disability, gender or sexual orientation. I will not knowingly violate any law, statute, or regulation in the performance of my professional services.
  9. Professional Development. I will continue to develop my professional knowledge and competency as Construction Manager, and I will contribute to the advancement of the construction and program management practice as a profession by fostering research and education and through the encouragement of fellow practitioners.
  10. Integrity of the Profession. I will avoid actions which promote my own self-interest at the expense of the profession, and I will uphold the standards of the construction management profession with honor and dignity.”

I don’t have that much experience in the construction industry, but I assume it would be very challenging to accurately follow each the above-mentioned criterion. The construction industry is considered as a very challenging industry due to complexity and uniqueness of each project. The construction managers need to deal with many challenges including change of orders, being on schedule and budget, and at the same time consider safety of workers and try to fulfill the client’s satisfaction. That being said, there are many criteria that may cause conflicts of interest and affect the fair compensation and release of information.

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Engagement of Universities in Society: Graduate Vs. Undergraduate

I am a PhD student in building construction, which is considered as very a practical field. Unlike many other PhD students, I prefer to start my career in the industry rather than the academia. However, every time I spoke with a potential employer and introduced myself as a PhD student, they told me that I am overqualified for the position. It became a challenge for me to understand what the logic behind this reaction is, because it is not like this in my country; higher level of education means higher demands for you.

Today, I was reading a very interesting article by Liam Roberts by the tile of “The University in Society: Engaging and Enabling“. This article helped me to understand how graduate and undergraduate studies can contribute in development of a society differently. I think this explains the perception exist in the construction industry.

Liam describes a university as a twin development engines. Firstly, the university that serves as “engines of graduates”, who then go on to participate in society as leaders and innovators. This engine is indispensable in creating new generations of teachers, business leaders, nurses and engineers. I would consider graduate students as the main source of the fuel for this engine. On the other hand, the second twin is the engine of research. The main outcome of the research engine is to produce raw knowledge that can help inform key decisions regarding an array of development-related fields of work.

I believe this is the perception that makes employers go more likely with undergraduate students as they are the results of the engine, which produces more practical personnel rather than the research engine! I would appreciate if anyone has a thought or previous experience on this, which can help me out to understand how the best way is to approach to a potential employer and introduce myself as a PhD student who is highly interested in joining the industry.

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Education in Iran

Thanks to our classmates, last week we had a chance to get familiar with different education systems in Egypt, Finland and South Korea. Here I want to share some facts about the education system in Iran:

1) The education in Iran is centralized and divided into K12 Education and Higher Education. The K12, which starts at age 7 is supervised by the ministry of Education and the Ministry of Science & Technology supervises the higher education system.

2) Higher education in Iran is mainly provided by: Universities, Institutes of Technology, Medical Schools, and Community Colleges.

3) There is a National Entrance Exam every year, which base on that eligible students can select their universities and majors.

4) That being said, it is very difficult for people from the industry to attend universities because they have to go through the national Entrance Exam and get a high rank on that.

5) The scoring system in all educational levels is from 0-20. In order to pass a course you need to get at least 10 out of twenty.

6) In September 2012, women made up more than 60 percent of students in the universities.

7) Sports from all kind are very important in Iran. Each school has its own teams in different sports; from table tennis and soccer to wrestling and Gymnastic. Although there is not a league for each sport, the schools are competing with each other once a year.


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International Students: Challenges and Counselling services – M.S. Thesis Survey Included

An on-going study by my wife encouraged me to share this post with you guys!

I came to the U.S. in 2011 and started my PhD at VT as an international student. At first, I faced different challenges in the school; I had to adopt to an educational system that its instruction is not in my native language. Then I had to get familiar with different cultures to know how to interact with other nationalities properly and with respect. Besides all that, I had to deal with unexpected living expenses, homesick, and immigration issues. At the time, I had no idea there is a counseling service here at VT, which can help us to overcome our challenges.

My wife’s research is on international students and challenges that they might have during their studies. The goal of the study is to identify international students’ problems and the services provided by counseling centers at VT in order to overcome those problems. This on-going research requires to have as many as VT INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS participated in a designed survey in order to properly represent the challenges and problems facing by international students. The result of this study would not only help the international students to get familiar with the services provided by counselling centers at VT, but also give a good understanding to the professors at VT about the challenges that their international students may go through.

It would be appreciated if could fill the survey at the following link: http://tinyurl.com/VTspring2014
If you have any questions, please contact Elmira Hamidi at elmirah@vt.edu.

Flyer 2014

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Mission Statement: UC, Santa Barbara & UC, Riverside

In this post, I would like to reflect the mission statements of two universities located in California;

1) University of California (UC), Santa Barbara is a research and teaching institution. The mission statement of this university can be found here.

2) University of California, Riverside (UCR) is a public university that is dedicated to research, teaching, and public service. The mission statement of this university can be found here.

I was reading these mission statements assuming myself as a potential applicant. As an international applicant, the first thing which grabbed my attention in the UCR mission statement was the emphasize on diversity. It is very appealing to see how they care about diversity and the benefits it can bring to the society.

On the other hand, the mission statement of UC at Santa Barbara is also very existing as it helps me to depict my future very clearly. To be honest, I love the sentence they used in their mission statement: “our students are full participants in an educational journey of discovery that stimulates independent thought, critical reasoning, and creativity”. This sentence makes me confident on how this university is going to guide me to achieve my future career goals.

Both statements are concise, but very clear on the missions that the universities are pursuing.

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